ELYRIA – While the Elyria Christian girls basketball program will look a bit different in 2022-23 with the graduation of several key players, they do return a nucleus of four Lady Eagles to win with including senior Rylan Hawkinson, their leader in the post.
Entering his tenth season as head coach, Greg Fields has found success more than not including a final record in 2021-22 of 14-8 overall and 8-1 in Wheat State League action. Their season ended with a heartbreaking two-point 28-26 loss to Hutchinson Central Christian in their sub-state championship game.
Having recorded 111 wins and 86 losses in his tenure, coach Fields will have a new assistant coach at his side this season in Sarah Swenson.
“Sarah (Swenson) is joining me as the assistant coach this season,” noted coach Fields. “I know that the experience that she brings from coaching most of these girls in middle school in the past will be an outstanding asset to the success of the team.”
The first job of the season will be finding players to replace the graduated foursome of Kylee Penner, KiLynn Starburg, Olivia Clark, and Hannah Froese. The four take close to 13 points per game with them along with some strong team leadership.
Despite the losses to graduation, the cupboard is not bare for coach Fields as he returns four very solid players from last seasons squad led by five-foot-nine senior Ryland Hawkinson. Hawkinson averaged 14.5 points per game as well as 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals.
Talking about Hawkinson, Fields said, “Ryland (Hawkinson) has great athletic ability and makes an impact both on offense and defense. She has a lot of length and can be very disruptive by deflecting shots and passes. She has developed a good outside threat on offense which has opened up her ability to get to the basket even more.”
Other being counted on from last season will be seniors Allie Stone and Alexus Swenson plus junior Julia Allen.
Allie Stone plays taller than her five-foot-five frame, scoring 4.9 points, getting 2.1 steals and making 1.5 assists per game in 2021-22. According to Fields, “Allie (Stone) is a very tough and fast defensive minded player who has worked hard to develop her shot in the off-season. She has a great vision to distribute the ball to an open player and continues to be an extremely hard worker who wants to improve every day.”
Alexus Swenson at five-foot-three, put up 3.4 points, and 1.4 steals last season where coach Fields called her, “Our most disciplined defender on our opponents point guards last season. Alexus has a very high basketball IQ and is great at running the point or playing the shooting guard position. She has an outstanding three point shot and can change the momentum of a game very quickly.”
The final return of note is five-foot-seven Julia Allen who according to the coach Fields “Really came on strong for us towards the end of last season. Over the summer, she showed that she has gained a lot of confidence and she has the strength to help us be a very positive presence on the inside this year. Julia is very coachable and has shown that she can consistently finish around the basket.”
Although he was unable to divulge any particular names at this point due to lack of practices, coach Fields explained that there were a lot of younger players that are coming back or joining the team this season and he would not be surprised if some of them make a big impact on our success this coming season.
Concluding his early pre-season reflections, Fields said, “We lost some key players from last year, but I am excited by the speed and athleticism of the group that we get to work with for 2022-23. We will begin to focus on the defensive side this season and try to be as active and disruptive as possible. This group of girls love to get out and play defense, and we are hoping to create transition points by running the floor for four quarters.”
The Lady Eagles are scheduled to open the 2022-23 season on Friday, December 2 when they host Moundridge which will be followed by participating in the Bluebird Classic the following week. Come mid-January the Elyria Christian girls will play in the Centre Classic.
2022-23 Lady Eagle Schedule (home games played at 6:00 p.m.):
December 2 > host Moundridge
December 6 > at Bluebird Classic, vs. Burrton
December 9 > at Bluebird Classic, vs. Little River
December 10 > at Bluebird Classic
December 13 > at Sedgwick
December 16 > host Solomon
December 20 > at Rural Vista
January 6 > host Canton/Galva
January 10 > host Smoky Valley Home Educators
January 13 > at Centre
January 17 > at Centre Classic
January 20 > at Centre Classic
January 21 > at Centre Classic
January 31 > at Wakefield
February 3 > host Herington
February 7 > host Goessel
February 10 > at Little River
February 13 > host Hutchinson Central Christian
February 14 > host Berean Academy (senior night)
February 17 > at Marion
February 23 > Substate quarterfinals
March 3-4 > Substate
March 8-11 > State Class 1A Tournament at Dodge City
(The Staff covering McPherson County Activities can be reached by email at email@example.com)